This week, Donald Trump paid a total of $2 million to eight charities. Not because he wanted to, but because last month—in a lawsuit brought by New York’s previous attorney general—a judge ruled that he had to pay this, as a penalty for using the Donald J. Trump Foundation as a personal piggy bank.
Even more extraordinary, however, are the broader terms of the court settlement, which make it clear that the president and his three oldest children—who were all foundation officials—are con artists who can’t be trusted with other people’s dollars. If Trump ever wants to take part in charity work in New York State again, he will only be able to do so under special supervision. Attorney General Letitia James’s office also announced that Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump have been put through “compulsory training to ensure this type of illegal activity never takes place again.”
In normal times, a court ruling that the president is a grifter who can’t be trusted to run his own charity would have gotten rather a lot of attention. But in a time of Noise—an attorney general deliberately misstating the findings of his own inspector general’s report, the president tweeting insults at his own FBI director, yet another Nuremberg-styled Trump rally on Tuesday, and so on—the story got largely pushed to one side.
Of course, while Trump and his family have been pillaging their own charitable foundation, this crooked and cruel administration is still going out of its way to demonize genuinely needy immigrants, who they claim have been scamming American taxpayers.
This week, Trump’s nativist team moved a whole lot closer to expanding the definition of who can be considered a “public charge,” a fundamental rewrite of American immigration policy according to their own awful vision. As I wrote in my previous column, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco overturned a national injunction against implementing the new rules, which would make it possible for immigrants to be deported for such offenses as using Medicaid or enrolling their families for food stamps. On Monday, another appeals court ruling—this one out of Richmond, Virginia’s Fourth Circuit—overturned a second injunction.
There’s only one national injunction left against the public charge rule: the one issued in New York. That’s a pretty slim thread from which to hang the hopes and dreams of many thousands of immigrants and their families. If the administration wins a ruling against that one in the Second Circuit, huge numbers of people using vital social services to keep their families sheltered, fed, and in good health will find themselves at risk of deportation. Others will feel forced to let their kids go hungry, stay sick, or even become homeless, in order to avoid using taxpayer-funded programs. And many, many more will be blocked from ever entering the United States in the first place.
That’s the Signal this holiday season. It almost feels like a ghastly reality TV show: America’s Biggest Grifters Stick It to the Needy.